zen

“Life is like a dream”

When you hear mindfulness people say something like, “Life is like a dream,” one thing they mean is that more than 99.99% of the stuff going on in our minds are thoughts about the past and the future. (Past happiness or regrets, and future hopes and concerns.) Because the only thing that’s real in the present moment is what’s actually happening in *only this moment*, anything that’s outside of this moment is in a strict sense no longer real.

Along this line of thinking I like Eckhart Tolle’s two quotes, “The present moment is all you ever have” — you know that to be true for sure if you’ve ever lost consciousness, not knowing if you’d ever open your eyes again — and, “The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor’s edge of Now.”

Your true self

I usually just encourage people to meditate so they can learn to relax, but there’s another good reason to meditate: It helps you find out who you are. Since you were born, you’ve been programmed by your parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, and teachers; meditation is a way undoing all of that programming. Once you shed that programming, what remains is your true self.

Zen koan: It would be better if you died

Zen koans often turn into humorous Abbott & Costello skits. For those new to Zen, the “It would be better if you died” reference just means that you should meditate like you’re in your coffin, which is further embodied in the Zen phrase, “Dead men have no desire.” (As long as you have desire, Zen will keep its distance from you.)

~ From the book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

“They are the eyes and ears of karma. And that’s the problem.” alvin January 31, 2018 - 11:37am

“Some people say, ‘Listen, listen!’ And they talk. I say nothing, it’s better. People’s opinions are the product of their karma. ‘I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears.’ But those eyes and ears are not a reliable reflection of absolute truth. They are the eyes and ears of karma. And that’s the problem.”

~ The Way of Ture Zen, Taisen Deshimaru

Accepting the “just this” of a situation

When I first started learning Zen I didn’t understand the quote shown in this image, and I truly was a carpet to walk on. Then I woke up and thought, “You need to run your business. You need to find the middle way between accepting ‘just this’ and what you need to do to be successful at work.”

It would have been helpful if I had seen this quote then, but the book, Making Zen Your Own, wasn’t available then.

“Absolute stillness and silence, as if one had landed on the Moon”

“On one occasion of my own practice, nearing deep samadhi, I happened to notice that the stage of my mind was quietly turning and a new scene was appearing. In this new scene no wandering thought popped up its head; there were absolute stillness and silence, as if one had landed on the Moon.”

~ Zen Training

Understanding Zen koans in The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) and The Blue Cliff Records

Present a sword if you meet a swordsman;
Don’t offer a poem unless you meet a poet.
When talking, tell one-third of it;
Don’t divulge the whole at once.

~ Mumon’s verse on Case 33 of the Mumonkan

One of the great things about the book, Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records, translated by Katsuki Sekida, is that Mr. Sekida gives you information that you have no way of knowing if you’re studying Zen by yourself.

The correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation

There’s a scene in the movie, The Family Man, where Nicolas Cage is sitting in a chair and trying to stay awake, because he knows that when he falls asleep his “glimpse” will be over.

The moments just before passing out are like that. Assuming that you’re not panicking, you’re vibrantly aware of everything around you — colors, smells, etc., because you don’t know if you’re just passing out or this is Game Over.

The end of a lucid dream can also be like that. You can be in the dream, know that you’re dreaming, and then know that you’re starting to wake up. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t have a choice, so you pay great attention to the environment because you know that you may never see it again.

To the best of my knowledge, all of those are also the correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation. As Shunryu Suzuki says, “The true practice of meditation is to sit as if you are drinking water when you are thirsty.”

(Namaste)

On Zen and finding true sanctuary

When we enter the empty meditation hall we experience a tangible awareness of peace. The uncluttered space, accentuated by the orderliness of the simple cushions, seems quietly alive, a reflection of inherent beauty. We find a feeling of safety and sanctuary.

However, in Zen practice, true sanctuary is not isolated from everyday life. True sanctuary includes everything, shutting out nothing, because it has no doors and no walls. Finding true sanctuary means expressing who we really are.

~~~~~

Tozan and his disciple Sozan were the founders of the Soto Zen school in China. When it came time for Sozan to leave his teacher, he want to say goodbye.

Tozan asked him, “Where are you going?”

“To an unchanging place,” Sozan answered.

“Is there really any going to that place?”

“The going itself is unchanged.”

In this story Sozan is saying that the activity is the place of unchanging. He is pointing to continuous effort, uninterrupted practice, as the “place” of sanctuary.

Katsuki Sekida, English teacher, Zen teacher

From the back cover of, Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) and The Blue Cliff Records (Hekiganroku):

“Katsuki Sekida (1893–1987) was by profession a high school teacher of English until his retirement in 1945. Zen, nevertheless, was his lifelong preoccupation.”

Similarly, my work these days involves computer programming, and my preoccupation is Zen and meditation. Unless you’re willing to go live in a monastery, we all have to work to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice.